Young Mexican-American athletes compete in the 'Mex Games' for a spot on national team
More than 2,000 young Mexican-American athletes are competing this weekend in and around Long Beach in what's known as the "MexGames," for Mexican-American Games.
The games are organized by the Mexican government in hopes of drawing out star Mexican-American athletes interested in competing in Mexico, with a shot at being chosen to train for the Mexican national team in future Olympics.
It's the first time the event has been held in several years, said William Torres, one of the local coordinators. Participants get to show off their skills in men's and women' soccer, and in boxing, wrestling and taekwondo.
"This event gives the kids who have Mexican heritage, from either one parent or a grandfather or a grandmother, the chance to be noticed," said Torres, who is managing the boxing competition. "If they show promise, they have a chance to go to Mexico and compete with the nationals in Mexico."
Standout athletes from the MexGames will have a chance to compete in the Mexican national games this summer, representing a delegation of Mexican-Americans athletes from the U.S.
Once there, some athletes could also catch the eye of scouts from Mexican national teams.
Playing on a Mexican women's soccer team one day would be dream for Emiline Benitez, 15. On Thursday at a park in Bell Gardens, she was one of hundreds of young players competing in the soccer division. She said she'd love to play professionally in her parents' homeland, even if she's from Santa Ana.
"I've grown up watching Mexican soccer," she said. "It's like a way to make my parents proud, to represent where they came from."
Fifteen-year-old soccer player Alejandro Moratayan from Lynwood said he'd be happy to compete in the Mexican national games – but what he'd really like is to play professionally.
"I also want to be scouted and to become pro, hopefully, and achieve my goal," said Alejandro, who said he's played soccer since he was four.
Mex Games organizers say they have more than 2,000 participants, ranging in age from their teens to early 20s. Most are from Southern California, although organizers said some came from as far as Phoenix, even Chicago.
Soccer competitions began this week; boxing and other competitions will go through the weekend in Long Beach.